THORNTONS, the biggest law firm in Tayside, is eyeing a push into Edinburgh’s cut-throat residential property market after appointing a new divisional boss.
Peter Ryder has been charged with growing the firm’s estate agency operation after taking on the role of managing director of property services.
He said that the “market is on the way back”, with a sharp rise in the buying and selling of homes, and the business needed to “expand accordingly”.
Thorntons is headquartered in Dundee with satellite estate agency operations in Arbroath, Forfar and Perth, handling hundreds of properties. Its Edinburgh office currently focuses on other areas of legal practice.
However, Ryder – who will announce this week that he is to step down as chairman of the Solicitors Property Centre (SPC) Scotland network to focus on his new job – admitted the capital’s resurgent property market made an attractive target.
“I would like to see us become the number one solicitor/estate agency choice for the east of Scotland,” he said.
“We will maximise the potential of our existing offices but in the longer term look at expansion elsewhere. The Edinburgh office is not active within the property services side at present but that is one area that we would certainly consider moving into.”
Edinburgh’s property market is highly competitive with a number of mid-tier commercial law firms that have large residential departments.
Thorntons will this week boost its property services team by six, to 40 staff, after deciding to extend its opening hours to 8pm and weekends.
Ryder, previously chief executive of Tayside Solicitors Property Centre (TSPC), said: “The market is on the way back and there is definitely stability now. We think it will improve further this year, helped by the improved availability of mortgage finance and the Help to Buy scheme.
“We are also beginning to see the developers come back onto the market. Things are getting busier and we need to expand the business accordingly.”
He added: “Over the last two to three months, the firm has been getting more instructions from the new-build side, which is very encouraging and linked back to financing, as the banks are being more flexible.”
He described the market in the east of Scotland as stable, with fears over a fresh property price bubble largely restricted to London and parts of the south-east of England.
Figures from the Nationwide last week showed the average house price in Dundee and Angus had risen by 4 per cent annually to just below £149,000. In Edinburgh the increase was 5 per cent to almost £242,000.
Prior to his appointment at TSPC in early 2010, Ryder spent 20 years at the Halifax in various roles, having been employed by Royal Bank of Scotland before that.